CHARLOTTE, N.C.—As expected, a coach preached the importance of special teams going into Virginia Tech's season-opener against East Carolina on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.
And just like Skip Holtz predicted, the game came down to a big play in the kicking game.
"(Holtz) told us it was gonna come down to special teams, and it did," Lee said.
Lee, a senior wide receiver, slipped inside the left edge and thumped Brent Bowden's kick with his left arm. The ball then bounced into Lee's hands, and he was off.
"I was just looking around to see if somebody else could scoop and score, but it got a good bounce and came right to my arms," Lee said. "When nobody grabbed me that first 10 yards, I knew we had a chance."
Lee's TD gave Frank Beamer, in his 22nd season as Tech's head coach, the first loss on a blocked punt that he could remember.
"There's no excuse for that," said Beamer, who said he'll scrutinize the game tape to see what went wrong with the Hokies' zone protection. "I thought the snap was a little bit soft, and I thought the kick was a little bit slow. ... I give them credit. Their guys did a nice job."
The Hokies (0-1), who led 14-0 with 8:54 to play in the first half, had one last chance, getting the ball back with 1:43 to play. But senior quarterback Sean Glennon, who was 14-of-23 for 139 yards and two interceptions, threw back-to-back incompletions on third and fourth down under some of the most intense pressure he'd seen all afternoon.
"Toward the end, it was tough," Glennon said. "Especially on that last drive, they were rushing just a couple of guys, and somehow they were getting pressure. They got eight guys in coverage, so there was really nowhere to go."
With his team trailing 22-13 early in the fourth quarter, ECU senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney had no such problems. He directed a 73-yard, nine-play drive, capped by his 3-yard keeper, as the Pirates (1-0) closed the gap to 22-20 with 4:05 to play.
"(The Pirates) are a good, solid football team, but that quarterback, I think, puts them at another level," Beamer said.
Pinkney finished with 211 yards and another touchdown through the air. He completed 19 of his 23 passes, hooking up with receivers on sideline slants, over-the-middle darts and a 12-yard pump-fake into the right corner of the end zone that pulled ECU within 14-13 on its first drive of the second half.
The Pirates' momentum then was short-lived, though, as John Graves blocked the extra-point attempt. Tech cornerback Stephan Virgil, who had broken a scoreless stalemate with a 30-yard fumble return early in the second quarter, recovered the ball and returned it for two points and a 16-13 Tech lead.
Then, after the Pirates picked up 2 yards on fourth-and-3 from the Tech 34, Glennon hit Smithfield High's Dyrell Roberts on a 62-yard pass down the right sideline. That set up Darren Evans' 4-yard TD plunge, which gave the Hokies a 22-13 cushion.
"I thought that was gonna get us over the hump, and it looked like it was going to for a little while," Glennon said. "It put us up nine in the fourth quarter, and it's not like us to lose in the fourth quarter like that."
But the Hokies weren't themselves for much of the day. Tech failed to score twice from inside ECU's 20 in the first quarter and missed several open-field tackles as the Pirates, led by Dwayne Harris' 142 all-purpose yards, outgained the Hokies 158-104 on the ground and 369-243 overall.
All that, though, turned out to be just the setup for the final, shocking role reversal.
"At Virginia Tech, you don't expect miscues to happen on special teams against us," Glennon said. "Usually it's for us. ... I'm sure Coach Beamer isn't gonna sleep too well about that. I don't think any of us will."
EAST CAROLINA 27, No. 17 VIRGINIA TECH 22
|Virginia Tech 01426—22|
|East Carolina 07614—27|
Second QuarterVT—Virgil 30 fumble return (Keys kick), 12:19. VT—Lewis 6 run (Keys kick), 8:54. ECU—Williams 1 run (Ryan kick), 1:16.
Third QuarterECU—J.Bryant 12 pass from Pinkney (kick blocked), 10:05. VT—2-point defensive conversion by Virgil, 10:05.
Fourth QuarterVT—Evans 3 run (kick failed), 14:56. ECU—Pinkney 3 run (Ryan kick), 3:36. ECU—Lee 27 blocked punt return (Ryan kick), 1:52. A—72,169.
|Time of Possession||26:52||33:08|
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—Virginia Tech, Lewis 11-62, Evans 12-37, Boone 3-4, Glennon 7-3, Jefferson 1-2, Oglesby 1-(minus 4). East Carolina, B.Simmons 17-54, Williams 10-48, Harris 3-32, Pinkney 11-24.
PASSING—Virginia Tech, Glennon 14-23-2-139. East Carolina, Pinkney 19-23-0-211, Kass 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING—Virginia Tech, Smith 3-32, Whitaker 3-14, Coale 2-15, Lewis 2-(minus 6), Roberts 1-62, Boone 1-9, Boyce 1-7, Evans 1-6. East Carolina, Drew 5-65, Harris 4-68, J.Bryant 4-34, Lee 2-26, B.Simmons 2-11, Gidrey 1-5, Williams 1-2.